5 essentials to position your legal information service for the future

Legal library leaders should ensure their firms get full value their teams have to offer by staying engaged, aligned and strategic…

In a survey conducted earlier this year of leaders of legal library and research teams, many skills gaps and challenges were identified. One of the key areas of concern was around commercial awareness of existing team members and new graduates joining teams. 

If legal library leaders want to be truly regarded as a strategic partner in their firm’s business, it is imperative that all team members are clear on the contribution they make to the firm’s commercial success. Of course, every situation is unique, and many legal research/library leaders are comfortable with the relationship they have with firm leadership. However, times are changing, and small legal research/library teams are increasingly being asked to do more with less. But, as a leader, how do you manage this challenge?   

1. Define your value proposition: you cannot be everything to everyone!

With your stakeholders’ input, drive consensus about what your team can deliver given current staffing and skills, how work is prioritised and how you define performance criteria.

2. Think strategically: learn from the past, deliver in the present and prepare for the future

Do not assume that you can rest on past success. We have all seen that with more information readily available to end-users there is increasing expectations for our team members to provide more added value or specialisation. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you most likely will and you need to be thinking about how to address potential gaps in your current model. This may mean restructuring your team, hiring team members from non-traditional backgrounds, hiring temporary staff or altering career paths for existing team members.

3. Speak the right language: if you are not talking about something directly related to firm success, they are not listening

If you want to keep the managing partner’s eyes from glazing over as you talk to them about the latest vendor contract, new knowledge management system or challenges in finding the right staff, make sure you are framing it in a way that matters to them. If it saves money, time, enables the firm to identify/serve new clients, lead with that. If it does none of those things, ask yourself why you are doing it or talking about it, as it likely to be the managing partner’s first question to you.

4. Align your team: they should know the firm’s top objectives, how their work contributes to them and be able to concisely communicate it

Take the responsibility to inform your team members of overall firm objectives and initiatives. Make the linkages for them as to how their work contributes to the objectives. As appropriate, encourage them to attend business updates, follow trends within your sector and participate in broader firm initiatives. Consider creating a mission/vision statement for your team and perhaps even an ‘elevator speech’ so that team members are prepared and feel comfortable in communicating the value your function provides to your firm.

5. Be ‘the leader’ for your firm in areas of your professional expertise

We have unique knowledge, skills and expertise. Core information and knowledge management skills are as needed and highly valued as ever. Evaluation of information sources and technology, vendor negotiation skills, change management and service delivery are our key strengths. Seek opportunities to work across functions and departments using these skills.

While facing many of the challenges confronting us in the profession, it can be tempting to entrench ourselves in traditional activities and to protect our team and domain. Ensure your firm is getting the full value you and your team have to offer by staying engaged, aligned and strategic.

In our session at the Legal Libraries Conference, we will present further ideas and case studies illustrating how to be recognised as a strategic partner in your firm by demonstrating the relevance of your team to the firm’s success.

This article was written by Maribeth Eisenmann, Associate Consultant at CB Resourcing, who will be speaking at the Legal Libraries conference on 10 October, in London, on the future of legal libraries. To find out more and to book your place, visit https://psl-libraries.co.uk/.